Jeffrey Archer: An Exclusive Interview on Cometh the Hour Transcript
Tell us about your new book in The Clifton Chronicles series Cometh the Hour.
If you’ve enjoyed the past books, the first five, this takes the family on but there are even more triumphs and tragedies this time.
You will see Harry with massive problems of the publication of his Russian friend’s book. You will see Emma problems at the hospital and problems with the family. You’ll see Sebastian at the bank, again having problems. Not helped by the wicked Lady Virginia who tries to bring them down again, and then you’ll be introduced to the daughter; Jessica. You’ll learn about her and what a fine artist she is, and the family goes on with triumphs and disasters.
Book Cometh the Hour and the final book in the series are out this year, can you tease us with what we can expect from the final book?
The decision to bring out the two books in one year, the sixth and the final part in one year, was a big decision. And it arose in the strange circumstances in that I had finished the sixth book and decided to write chapter one of the seventh book so I could answer all the problems that had arisen in the sixth book. And I got so excited I just went on writing. So the readers will now get the first book now, you can get Cometh the Hour now, and you will get This Was a Man in November.
It’s the biggest challenge of all for a writer the final volume, because now if you’re among the millions of people who have read The Clifton Chronicles, you know Harry, you know Emma, you know Giles, and you know there’s going to be tragedy somewhere. And that was the biggest challenge of all, to make the ending credible, to make all those characters you’ve lived with now for seven years, something has to go badly wrong, but I’m certainly not going to tell you to whom or to what happens.
The books now cover Harry’s life in the 70’s and 80’s, by which point you were very much a public figure. Did you pull in your own experiences of these periods?
I think all writers, and by that I mean particularly novelists, draw on their own experience. I was born in 1940 so was able to write all the way through the period I remember as a child, university days, my first job, my life in politics, even my life as a writer because Harry is a writer, so you take those things, because I always say to young writers “write about what you know about” the reader will then know “he’s been there”, “she’s been there”, know what they’re talking about. So many of my own personal experiences have got into the book, but I suspect that’s true with every author.
Have you ever been tempted to write yourself into your books?
It’s a lot of Harry in me, and there’s a bit of Giles in me, and my wife is Emma, almost to her fingertips. So yes you get in and your friends get in as well, different people get in, you know someone well and have loved them for many years, and you plonk them in the middle. And that’s good too, because if you’ve got to invent a person completely that’s quite a strain but if you base it on someone you know you draw them, you draw the picture and then what they’re good at, or what their failings are and what goes right and what goes wrong. Again, the reader feels more at ease.
There are rumblings of a TV series. Who would be your ideal cast?
I mean there are rumblings that there’s going to be a television series, and I keep getting calls saying “this would make an obvious television series. Hello BBC, hello ITV, what are you doing?” but dream on. I think what matters is not who plays Harry, very important who plays Harry, very important who plays Emma, very important who plays Giles, what the crux will be is the woman who gets the part of Lady Virginia. She will become, in my view, she will trump the lot of them if she’s a great actress, she will trump the lot of them. So whoever gets the Lady Virginia, that’s the part that will decide if this series is going to work.
What do you think it is about your books that translates into different languages and cultures so well?
I suspect the storyteller, look at Hans Christan Anderson, who Dickens described as the greatest storyteller that ever lived. If you look at Dickens, who I think is the greatest storyteller that ever lived, if you look at Dumas who, a masterful storyteller, it doesn’t matter which language. Hans Christian Anderson was Danish, Dumas was French, Dickens was English, what do they have in common? They could tell a tale and you wanted to turn the page. That’ll never change.